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Understanding Mexico's Turmoil

What’s going on in Mexico? Mass murder, beheadings, turmoil—and foreign investors piling in. How does that add up? We ask.

Soldiers patrol a neighborhood after a shoot out between rival gangs in Monterrey, Mexico, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP)

The headlines from Mexico are fierce, frightening, and – if you listen closely – a little confusing. 

Here are a few of those stories: mass murder, drug war, kidnapping, an American jet-skier killed by gangs on the border, investigator beheaded, whispers of civil war – and foreigners pouring money into Mexico.  Then there’s the story that a hundred tons of  U.S.-bound marijuana was seized yesterday in Tijuana. A Pentagon study warns of a Mexican “collapse.” And yet, Mexico’s stock market is at an all-time high. 

We go into the gruesome headlines and beyond – what is going on in Mexico?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Angela Kocherga, border bureau chief for Belo Television.

Samuel Logan, senior writer for the International Relations and Security Network, and founder of Southern Pulse, an online intelligence network.

Arturo Alvarado Mendoza, professor of sociology at El Colegio de México and fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC.

Barry McCaffrey, retired four-star general in the U.S. Army and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Clinton.

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  • Nick

    I think it is horrible what is happening in Mexico and so close to our own border. I am disturbed by the number comments I hear about Mexicans in regard to this. People should realize that the crime in Mexico is all drug related and all of those drugs are because we consume them.

    The United States is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs.

    If we want to cure the crime in Mexico, we should stop consuming the drugs they are shipping. Take care of our problem at home and it will take care of the problem in Mexico. As long as there is a market for them here in the United States, there will be a problem in Mexico.

    But I am at a loss how you could stop the consumption here in the United States.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Nick,

    we cannot stop consumption of drugs here or anywhere. Nor do we need to do so–or should. It is immoral to restrict individual use of drugs. More than that, prohibition doesn’t work. Never did, never will.

    We must legalize drugs here and elsewhere. There will always be crime, but if drugs are legal then the most lucrative aspect of crime will be eliminated.

    Criminalizing vice, though it may satisfy a puritan moralist need to punish sin, serves no society any damned good. It only creates corruption and serves as a state tool of repression.

  • Sasha Drugikh

    @Nick
    There will never be an end to the consumption here in the United States. The Mexican word “marijuana” is just a demonized term for hemp, which was long used and enjoyed in this country before Harry Anslinger’s racist rants before Congress in the 1930s made it illegal. In decades since, we have practically turned this country into a militarized zone, with secret police in our schools, tanks and military equipment deployed in our cities, and a permanent criminal infrastructure of drug-pushing black-market “entrepreneurs” and the resultant prison population of 1,000,000 Americans.

    Anyone clever enough to admit, in hindsight, that alcohol Prohibition was a disaster needs to come to their senses immediately. Call your Senators and Representatives today and get pot legal in this country, both at the state and federal level.

  • Zeno

    Mexico acts as the transportation way-station before the illegal substances are imported. This “war on drugs” has been going on for over 40 years! The reason for continuing with the same policy is either everyone involved in stupid…or the war is actually supporting something else.

    I agree with Joshua and Sasha. When a government makes something “illegal”, there are powerful reasons for doing so, but none are about morals, health or public safety.

    Its all about the transfer of money upward via the incarceration industry (prisons, sheriffs, construction, etc), the banking (national and international money laundering), the enforcement industry (local, state and federal police), the justice industry (courts lawyers), the government itself (political corruption).

    It has NOTHING to do with moral causes. This is usually true of every war.

  • cory

    1. Great comment, Joshua Hendrikson.

    2. I’m fascinated to see what evolves in Mexico. I’d like to watch it from my side of a very high wall.

    3. Looks like Marijuana is finally on it’s way to being legalized throughout the U.S. I can’t wait to see how it affects Mexico… and us.

    4. Finally, let us not forget that Mexican dysfunction is in no way a recent development. In what era was Mexico a smooth running government and/or society?

  • Grady Lee Howard

    True that, Zeno. One of the reasons Wachovia had to be merged with Wells Fargo in the Meltdown was that they had gotten really sloppy in their laundering of drug money. If I come in with 10K in a paper bag they call the cops, but if an effete European proposes a wire transfer of several million it’s lunch at the club. Charles Bowden estimates that up to a third of the volume of the US economy may be contraband related (sex slavery, weapons, drugs). What a Depression there would be if it was stopped! P-tardies, when they are installed next January, might be more repressive than the current war on drugs, so expect Social Security to become a target for getting policing and prison money. You can’t furlough all them dangerous giggling pot heads, you know. They laugh at Authority.

  • s2

    The whole thing is a sad and ugly commentary on human stupidity, greed, and violence. If there is any possible way for those in power to take advantage of the weak and helpless, they will always find a way.
    When will we ever learn ?

  • Nick

    Joshua and others,

    I totally agree with you. By “stopping consumption”, I would gladly include some sort of regulation. I meant stopping consumption in its very basic way or stopping the demand to “illegally” import into the United States.

    Sasha,

    Prisons? Yes, so very embarrassing. But a lot of the reason we have so many in prison is that prisons have become a big business here in the United States. It pays for the business to have as many in prison as they can round up. Wasn’t it the Governor of California – I think Arnold S.- who said that the prison guard union as strong or almost as strong as the teachers’ union? Prisons should not be a business. Very sad.

  • Yar

    I hard working Muslim gives to a charity and is accused of sponsoring or material support of terrorism.
    Yet, when a person buys drugs they are not tried for their contribution to the terror brought to the streets of our neighborhoods.
    It seems like a double standard to me.

    Our addicts have to learn to live in a society where drugs are available and not use them.
    The only way I know to accomplished this is to build rehab centers where drugs are available on request but are randomly lethal. It sounds cruel and is extreme but it is the only solution I can think of to get our society off drugs.

  • Ellen Dibble

    “Foreign investors piling in”? I read that up top. Possibly this hour will go beyond drugs and law enforcement. What the police say about areas where kids turn to drug dealing as a way to get ahead is that the kids need to be offered alternatives, at least a viable choice for a legal lifestyle. The illegal lifestyle is pretty nice, compared to trying to go “straight,” and the obvious lesson is that the non-gang members are idiots. The only downsize is that you have to provide your own justice system, your own enforcement, and you’ll be dealing with a bunch of addicts, so.
    So a mini-Mexico in a corner of a metropolis is a mini-Mexico, and needs a plausible alternative way of being. The idea is that the alternative will catch on.

  • David

    The U.S. military has done a very good job of eliminating drugs and drug users from it’s ranks during the last 30 years. Ridding our society of drug abusers can be done.

  • CHRIS M

    Let’s start with the alcohol drinkers first

  • Paul Kuhn

    David, as a former Naval officer, let me point out that by testing for marijuana, the U.S. military has simply pushed its ranks to alcohol which causes far more behavioral and health problems than cannabis.

  • Greg

    Isn’t there another way to look at this? Mexican blood on our hands for refusing to adopt common sense drug policy.

  • Jay in Buffalo

    Mexico is suffering because of our foolish war on drugs. We have exported the violence because we have so many people making money,legally and illegally, in this war.

  • jeffe

    Folks there is a war on in parts of Mexico.

    We are involved up to our necks in this muck.
    Our gun industry sells the gangsters weapons.
    I’m sure I’ll get some push back from the NRA types.
    By the way the NRA is nothing more than a shill for the gun industry.

    The other issue seems to me that this seems to be turning into a Somalia type of situation were by the country is falling into be ruled by gangs.

    I know a chap who lives in the Southern part of Mexico and it’s a different country than what this show is about.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Alcohol may cause more health problems, Paul Kuhn, for the partaker, but cannabis is far worse for those in the vicinity who do NOT partake. I have had new neighbors downstairs, and have noticed an odor of cannabis since Friday. By yesterday, my whole body was in revolt, with a headache that double doses of several painkillers wouldn’t touch, double doses of allergy medicines, various homeopathic things for various symptoms, my gut and kidneys in mad revolt. All my air purifiers going full blast. I hung out the window for fresh air and saw a red car with its lights on, by the fire hydrant, a Chevy sedan, and pretty soon a young man, smoking something, ran down the front steps, ran to the trunk and opened it, stashed in a large insulated picnic bag the size of a suitcase, got in, did a U-turn, and left. I earned all my money last night between 9:30 when he left and 11:00, because I felt better very soon. I have figured out how to earn my living catch-as-catch-can. But whatever the smoke was, it didn’t have much odor. Just a lot of evil “punch.”
    If that were legal, hopefully the partakers would all feel free to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, the police have to be convinced… well, you understand, right?

  • Ellen Dibble

    What if cell phones were de-activated for affected areas. Police regard cell phones as a “tool of the trade,” along with scales and baggies. GPS should be able to enforce that.

  • Malcolm

    It seems to me that a lot of this jockeying for position between drug cartels has something to do with America’s appetite for marijuana. The recent huge marijuana bust shows that it’s not just cocaine that’s causing this violence. 1) How much of this violence would cease if the US decriminalized marijuana? 2) How much of this violence is over competition to import other “harder” drugs?

  • Lucinda Vargas

    An incomplete picture is being portrayed in this discussion since it is being conveyed that almost all of the violence in Mexico is contained to those involved in illegal activities. The discussants are obviously unaware of the large number of kidnappings and extortions that are occurring in places like Juarez where the targets are doctors, professionals, legitimate business people (owners of businesses such as hardware stores, etc.), teachers, in short, people who have nothing to do with the drug trade. The crime syndicates are behaving just like that, diversifying their criminal activities into areas outside the drug trafficking per se and in a country where the rule of law is weak or simply nonexistent, the criminals know they have the upper-hand. PLEASE DO NO LEAVE THIS OUT because the statistics on kidnappings and extortions are dire and constricting the life of civilians and creating “ghost town” scenarios in cities like Juarez where commercial businesses and doctors’ offices are closing. This is a parallel development to the inflow of financial and foreign direct investments. THIS IS A CONTRADICTION ALSO, IF THE SHOW IS TOUCHING ON THIS, OF WHAT IS TAKING PLACE IN MEXICO.
    Just now I am hearing the guest from Mexico finally touching on this subject….
    Bottom line problem of Mexico: 97% rate of impunity, this shows the degree of the lack of rule of law.

  • Steve T

    Our CIA taught the cartels how to do business. What’s the confusion?

  • Ellen Dibble

    How can police function (also here) when a whole street is in the control of the dealers. The dealers offer protection; the dealers offer protection; the dealers or their agents are right in the dwellings 24/7. So if the police sweep through and arrest somebody, are they going to be able to have civilian witnesses?
    Sure. But they are all going to coordinate their stories and tell a great whopper of a lie about what transpired. If they haven’t had a chance to create that story, they just vanish. It is the police against the whole community.

  • David

    Paul, as a former sailor I did not see any increase in alcohol abuse with the decrease in the use of illegal drugs. MJ is a much more harmful drug than alcohol and is a funds a huge criminal element here in the USA and around the world.

  • Greg

    “The U.S. military has done a very good job of eliminating drugs and drug users from it’s ranks during the last 30 years. Ridding our society of drug abusers can be done.”

    @David: I don’t know where you’re getting your information. Our soldiers are enjoying the Afghan cash crops, committing suicide in record numbers, and when they come home physically and mentally broken they don’t get therapy, they get DRUGS.

  • Brandstad

    One of Mexico’s top 5 if not top 3 contrabutions to its GDP is cash sent from the US to mexican citizens. If we got serius, we should threaten the mexican government that we will put a 50% tax on the money transfers to mexico unless they make visible and effective effort to control the boarder

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Wait just a minute there! Government’s working with drug trades? When has that ever happened before? Perhaps you need to interview Woody Harrelson.

  • Steve T

    Threaten the Mexican government? LOL Try kicking rocks barefoot.

  • richard edwards

    What is going on in American expat towns like San Miguel de Allende? Why no drug violence there?

  • http://www.johnewing.org John Ewing

    What about NAFTA and economic destabilization that has occurred in Mexico as a result of neoliberal economics?

  • Al Dorman

    Yes, let’s now hear from the Drug Warrior faction, the morally-challenged Prohibitionists with Mexican blood on THEIR HANDS. This General should be ashamed of himself.

  • Ana Hernandez

    As an American who lives in Mexico from the U.S., I have to say many of the reports you read about the goings on here in Mexico are pure BS! We read a story not long ago about a massive 3 block take over in Laredo a few months ago including… car jackings, and shoot outs with federal police. We were in a motel all that week on the very street it supposedly took place on, NOTHING HAPPENED! Also the same news group who put out that story put one out about cartels who went into Laredo TX taking over ranches. Again, it never happened. I spent 4 days speaking with officials on BOTH sides of the border. Laredo TX officials were slightly amused as they have had many calls about false claims such as these over the past year.

    I am not saying there is not cartel violence, there most certainly is. There are a lot of serious problems here! but when reporters lie, stretch the truth, and try to throw scare into the American public, it makes what is really going on here a bigger problem, because those issues are being ignored.

  • Jason Chambers

    Did we really think that NAFTA and other “free-market” policies would only affect legal markets? We decimate the agricultural foundation of the Mexican economy, insisting on unrestricted movement of products and profits; meanwhile, the movement of people whose jobs evaporate due to these policies enjoy no such freedom of movement.
    Couple these circumstances with a multi-billion dollar demand for drugs… now factor in prohibition, which artificially inflates prices and guarantees that disputes over market share, etc. will be resolved, not with lawsuits so common elsewhere amongst competitors with grievances, but instead with violence.
    The real crime would be to continue to approach this problem as a military one (to be addressed with a horribly disastrous “war”) that exists on only one side of an imaginary line in the sand. Addiction, unemployment, poverty, and violence exist across our planet; to confront them will require challenging the near-sacred right to profit from human misery that has been asserted for centuries now by a tiny elite.

  • Valkyrie607

    The War On Drugs is a SUCCESS!!!

    The War On Drugs has been a resounding success. Just look at its long list of proven accomplishments:

    * Lots of new prisons have been built. Now the USA has a greater percentage of its citizens under lock and key than any other country on Earth. We’re number one!

    * Huge numbers of blacks and latinos and low income whites have been imprisoned and disenfranchized as a result of drug related felony records. So they will never vote again. Now, thank goodness, we can just politically ignore them – except to throw them back into those new prisons if they get tired of being ignored and begin to turn restive.

    * Racist harassment of citizens of color has found a new legalistic justification in the form of drug-crime-related “profiling.

    * Troublesome civil liberties have thankfully been eroded to the point where police can confiscate someone’s cash simply because they have a lot of it on their person, and never return it, and never have to prove any wrongdoing on the part of the confiscatee, and never have to charge them with anything.

    * Troublesome privacy rights have been diminished to the point where in order to get a job and provide for their families workers must submit to a degrading search of their bodily fluids. This sets a very useful precedent for all sorts of other humiliating and intrusive future invasions of privacy just a little further down the road.

    * Thanks to the War On Drugs we can carry on vicious proxy counter-insurgency campaigns against the poor in Columbia and elsewhere for political reasons while pretending that it is all just about coca. And when the urvivors of our counterinsurgency campaign get driven off the land and wind up in shanty towns surrounding their capital city. This gives us a vast reserve of abjectly poor workers for the sweatshops of US-based multinational corporations – workers who will be willing to do for $.50/hour what American workers used to do for a decent living wage before their job got moved overseas.

    Drug use in America continues just as before, of course. But putting a stop to drug use was never the point. The fact that the War On Drugs doesn’t actually stop drug abuse is the sheer beauty of it. The drug use pretext continues and continues, which enables the War to continue and continue thus creating more and more of the sorts postive gains listed above.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/10/14/wars/index.html

  • Adrian

    Tom, my question to you and your guests is: When oh when will we come to our senses? When will we realize that the War on Drugs does infinitely more harm than the drugs themselves?
    Also, how old does one have to be before one becomes an adult, becomes an independent being free to make one’s own decisions however stupid? Let those who act stupid suffer the consequences of their actions. However, the War on Drugs fills our jails and makes us all suffer.
    Please remember, prohibition corrupted only the American justice system. The War on Drugs is corrupting governments around the world and pouring billions of dollars in the coffers of organized crime and terrorist organizations.
    Legalize the stuff like we did with alcohol and the price will collapse and that would destroy the illegal drug business. Our congressmen and senators do for free what lobbyists for drug lords would gladly pay them millions for; namely, keep the drug laws as they are.
    I remember reading in Time 9/27/10 p. 63 that Atlantic City bigwigs in 1920 were celebrating the coming boom that would surely follow Prohibition. They made a toast “To those beautiful, ignorant bastards!” Criminals around the world are still toasting those ignorant bastards in Washington.
    So, I repeat my question: When will we come to our senses and legalize drugs as we finally did with alcohol?

  • Ana Hernandez

    and for craps sake, someone kill NAFTA!! It is bad for the U.S. and is sending the average Mexican worker into dept!

  • Paul Kuhn

    Ellen, sorry about your problem with secondary smoke but in my 40 years of following the drug issue, I’ve never encountered such a violent reaction to cannabis. Something else is going on downstairs.

    David, it is foolish to state that mj is more harmful than alcohol. Cannabis is not just less dangerous, it’s far less dangerous. Spend a few minutes on the web comparing the two, please. And it is not marijuana that funds a criminal element, it is marijuana prohibition.

  • jeffe

    Ana Hernandez Canada will never go for this, they made out like bandits on this one.
    People forget, NAFTA was all three countries.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Yeah, the easier it is for those Californians to smoke weed, the less likely they’ll be to take the risk of buying coke and meth, and then how will the drug lords arm their goons? Come on people, we need a reason to take over Mexico here! It’s the only way the Tower Of Babel can get any higher.

  • jason

    Ellen Dibble,
    Your neighbors are smoking crystal methamphetamine or crack cocaine. Many things for and against smoking marijuana can be said quite truthfully; “didn’t have much odor” is, unfortunately, not one of them.

  • Bud

    Barry McCaffery is a buffoon.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Paul, I react similarly to cocaine, but not to tobacco smoke. Actually tobacco smokers regularly go outside, not wanting to contaminate their own space, for starters. I don’t think my reaction to marijuana is so unusual. For one thing, it didn’t happen overnight. I think the effect is cumulative, over decades, although I suspect the danger to children is immediate, if not as disabling.
    Also, in about 1985 I was dealing with being in a room that had toxic air, and as a result my immunities went haywire, and I noticed that the specialist for square one wanted to rule out marijuana exposure. He said that he had lived in California where marijuana is a way of life, and as he was training as an allergist there, he found out that the major allergy there was to marijuana.
    At the time there was no marijuana in my environment, but now that there sometimes is, I find those specialists offer treatments for hundreds and hundreds of substances, but not for marijuana.
    Also, we have legalized marijuana. I voted for that as well. It just shouldn’t be inflicted on people in the same building, and so long as it is illegal, or even a misdemeanor (as it is now), the marijuana smokers will do it behind doors, inside, which is bad for those in the same building.
    It seems to me that susceptible pot smokers when they begin to get sensitive to it would naturally stop smoking. But the people like me who have lived through generations of downstairs pot smokers can’t simply “give it up.” Being stuck, our natural aversion can’t help us.

  • Roy

    I was truly disappointed that the whole topic of legalization was resticted to one question at the very end.
    It is truly ignoring the elephant in the room if you refuse to ask the simplest questions first. Are the problems caused by the drugs themselves, truly any worse than the havoc being created by their prohibition?
    We just heard the whole littany 10′s of thousands dead in Mexico, millions of people jailed in the US over the years, peoples lives destroyed for owning a plant, all of it, the billions of dollars in an unregulated underground economy, the police corruption, all of that is a result of the prohibition, not the drugs themselves. To not ask the basic question, is it really worth it? Is this really the best way to deal with these drugs that obviously lots and lots of people really want? Where are all those free-market-solves-every-problem types? That is the discussion that needs to happen, yet all we get is a quick question about Prop.19 and the predictably lame, canned answer from McCaffrey.
    Who really benefits from the current prohibition scheme? Certainly not ordinary citizens.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Jason, thanks for the input. I have been worried about methamphetamine. In fact, about a mile from here a recently vacated apartment was found to have a chest of meth makings in it. The landlord and her helper vomited immediately. Then called 911. It is going to cost the landlord something like $130,000 to have the house made habitable again. She says that is unfair. She is the victim of a crime, and look at the results.
    Anyway, I have been worried because of having reactions like that to marijuana and cocaine even without smelling anything. And I’m thinking what kind of highly trained dog could help me now. Meanwhile, I just keep telling my doctor that I have flu with this or that set of symptoms.
    Could a dog smell meth whereas a human can’t? I guess I should ask the detectives. They now have some experience with all this stuff.

  • Jack Shultz

    The futile war on drugs has always been reminiscent to me of Canute’s war on the sea. Canute was reputed to have tried to demonstrate his power by commanding the ocean waves to turn back. Of course, he was proven to be all wet.
    Realistically, its been shown that authorities cannot even keep drugs out of prisons. If that is so, how can they keep drugs of the streets in an open society?
    The present drug policy is actual worse than futile. It is counterproductive, because the prohibition increases the prices and profits of the drug trade and attracts as steady stream of replacement suppliers as other suppliers are arrested and taken off the streets.

  • Steve T

    @ Valkyrie607 Great post I could not agree more.

    Thankfully Cal. sees an opportunity to stop the insanity. If you can realize the money saved just on arrest and prosecution is enough to reduce the state debt significantly,add the cost of incarceration at 70-80k per year per conviction and that a huge chunk of debt. Add the taxes now collected from production and consumption. And within two years Cal will have a surplus for the first time in generations.

    I was told that the definition of insanity is: To do the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

  • Al Dorman

    Wow, I never in a million years thought I’d say this, but: Shame on you, On Point! Leaving the crux of the issue for 10 seconds of trite bilious propaganda from the top Drug Warrior (who has a dog in this futile fight). Still love the show…

  • Greg

    Tom, a couple weeks ago you asked Guillermo del Toro about the Mexican psyche. He explained that the history of the Mexican civilization was one of being conquered and exploited by imperial powers, and repeatedly stolen from and subjugated by their own corrupt leadership. Why do you not bring this dynamic into the conversation? (If only to offer another point of view that your guests might not have considered, and listeners would appreciate.) You have a lot of daily listeners so I don’t understand why you don’t connect the dots between shows, where possible.

    When you don’t have stability or social mobility, corruption is not only attractive, it’s a survival strategy. McCaffrey talks about rule of law and ‘improving their internal security’ which to me sounds every bit as realistic as our Iraq/Afghanistan strategy. What are we going to do, build the Mexican government a high tech surveillance grid after we finish building ours?

    Left to their own devices I believe Mexico would have resolved this problem a long time ago. Absent the money flowing in from U.S. taxpayers for our political favorites and instruments of war and control, it either wouldn’t be as bad as it is or they would have already had a normal, human, common sense response: legalize some of it, regulate it, tax it, and then enjoy a ringside seat to watch your neighbor bastardize its justice system. Meanwhile, the CIA is ferrying known terrorists in and out of the U.S. so they can sell drugs to Americans to fund their insurgency. Oh wait, that was 25 years ago.

  • Greg

    @Jack Shultz: EXCELLENT POINT.

    Forgot about the prisons. Wow.

    To anyone reading who thinks you can stop people from getting high, what do you make of the fact that our own most secure institutions are rife with drugs?

  • Sam Wilson

    @ Ellen Dibble, on October 19th, 2010 at 10:21 AM
    =================

    Just wondering, why you didnt call police or better not vacate from that place itself?

    What if tomorrow there is a fire or shootout?

    I guess, its not too late now..

  • Ellen Dibble

    Sam, good question. The police probably think they have better things to do than deal with my issues. Actually, there was what I call “the Mexican gang” who smoked cocaine; there were two guys, then a pregnant woman. And it went on for many months. The police and the landlord were exceedingly lackadaisical, IMHP. Child Protection eventually got on their case (at my instigation), and they all moved within a week. However, my impression from what the police chief said in one forum is that they were not ignoring those people. I’m thinking (and saying to them) are these confidential informants? Or worse? Anyway, the police told me that even with marijuana legal, one can be fined for smoking it. So essentially they would bother someone in the middle of the night, fine them $50, and wait for me to call another night. This does not help bonding a small community like mine. It is very divisive, to say the least.
    So consider now when the odor is de minimus. I noted the faintest odor of marijuana on Saturday, again on Sunday. The previous month I had been ill a lot, but I thought it was the tail end of a sudden and severe flu at Labor Day; thereafter my skin and nose were prone to non-healing infections, headaches were sort of teasing me, almost pouncing, and something like pericarditis sent me to the doctor (and then resolved that night, of course). So how many of us call the police when we have a malingering flu????? How many of us call the doctor when we have dealers and addicts carrying on in our midst?
    By the time I realized the particular car that was driving away might be related to my malaise, it was too late. Dispatch would have politely told me to call sooner. I only had about 20 seconds to take it all in.
    Actually, I first try to importune my neighbors, see if anyone knows what’s going on. They will all tell me I’m crazy, that those people are a happy family and never smoke anything, or “do” anything. But these neighbors smoke tobacco, and I think their noses aren’t too good. So I’ll have to call the police and tell them that I don’t smell anything but I don’t feel good, and what are they going to do about it.

  • Ellen Dibble

    To me the solution (not for Mexico) but for us is to legalize all these dangerous substances, then make sure they are not used in drug-free apartment buildings. This should allow parents to find cheap housing in safe areas. This should allow people with delicate health to find cheap housing where they can restore their health. This should allow the police to focus their energies on one section of town. This might encourage smokers of tobacco to go cold turkey in order to live in the drug-free territory, because I suppose all smoking will be considered dangerous to others, including tobacco.
    And for control and prevention of abuse? Well, all the money that goes into jails and prisons and lawyers for all these users, that money can go into education and rehab. It will be easier to get the facts out there if there is not such an undercurrent of us and them to the subject. Kids won’t learn about drugs from the drug dealers themselves, which would then be the pharmacist, I suppose.
    Something like that. Maybe Mexico can normalize too.

  • Sam Wilson

    “Police probably think they have better things to do than deal with my issues. Actually, there was what I call “the Mexican gang” who smoked cocaine; there were two guys, then a pregnant woman. And it went on for many months. The police and the landlord were exceedingly lackadaisical, IMHP.”

    I thought Police would patrol the area regardless and any suspicious activity automatically brings Police action/attention??

    I didnt know that drug involvement / peddling is not a big deal for Police? Also if there is a shootout or fire tomorrow in the place, wouldnt it mean Police negligence?

    I guess I had huge respect for Police (after watching COPS for years) !

  • Ellen Dibble

    Sam, police do patrol, and I have a huge respect for their activities. Why wouldn’t they address months of sickening cocaine fumes where I live? Well, for one thing maybe no one at dispatch or in the police station can convincingly convey how sick I get. The idea is more that I’m being a crank. And what action they take depends on the seriousness. The apartment had been empty (paid for but not yet inhabited) for several months before anyone moved in. Someone had hung nice original artwork on the wall, and it waited. You don’t then expect South American immigrants, one of whom washes dishes at a nearby restaurant, and a nephew who goes around like Santa Claus with an enormous brown sack. The smoke would come up from all three rooms, so I couldn’t isolate myself from it. There would be meetings Sunday morning before dawn outside on the street, with several languages, and then sleek shiny limousines, twins, deceptively maneuvering in the predawn hours predawn, posing as one another, stopping here — I was expecting Rush Limbaugh.
    From transcribing police testifying in court, I know their approach to a drug distribution network takes months, and it’s not advisable to “show your cards” and fold things up unless all your ducks are in order. You fold up the whole thing at once, and protect your confidential sources. So I thought I might have a double agent or something like that. And I also thought about the possibilities for corruption.
    So. I didn’t want to interfere with the police in their careful folding up of something like this. I could sort of call them for help at 2:00 AM (or 7:00 AM, even worse off, basically logged out), totally wasted from sinuses being blasted with cocaine fumes for the previous 4 hours, and ask them to storm the apartment below. Two cops against an unsuspecting contingent of Spanish-speaking “agents” of some kind, neither side clear on what to expect. (I can imagine the police wanting to say the lady upstairs is a little crazy; sorry to bother you, goodbye.)
    I value my health, but not enough to put a police force or a larger investigation in jeopardy. I did succeed in getting them out, once there was an actual baby whose health had to be protected, or that was the idea.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Maybe some entrepreneurial landlord needs to open an affordable apartment building for allergy sufferers only.
    I wonder if that would stand up as a benevolent discrimination. (It’s a better way of saying non-smoking.) Hospitals and medical offices have little trouble enforcing it.

    I remember when I worked at Morgan Stanley in a tower. The meat eaters regularly overgassed the restroom exhaust.
    It was a long way down that elevator, retching all the way, to outside air, and sometimes I met milling smokers head-on. When I worked in Congress there were those who smoked pot right in the Capitol and office annexes. They thought it was a hoot. Many a page snorted their first toot on federal property. Drug use is acceptable for those who possess money and power. See how well they handle it?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Grady, landlords, over the last 40 years, have been putting up “affordable” apartments all over the place, and also switching apartments into condos. This makes for almost no choice for a fairly large swath of us. Where once upon a time a kid out of college found an apartment, now they go live with a relative.
    “Affordable” is not at all affordable unless you have a regular job. Teachers, police, those are the sort of people the town wants to have settle there. But the fact is that people with regular salaries can easily plan enough to find themselves a house. “Affordable” doesn’t work if you make what is just enough money to live on if you are having health problems. Health insurance (even in Massachusetts) has been around $700 a month; you can decide to go without allergy treatments or any treatments, and reduce that to $550 a month. In any case, if you’re building a business, one year you’re buying lots of equipment or employing a lot of help, and the proceeds might end up BELOW what “affordable” requires. The next year you make $40,000 and the lease requires you to pay 25%, which is $10,000, and you would be saving yourself a lot of money to get the little apartment vintage 1890 which is $550. Someone might say don’t you want four rooms and all the modern conveniences that “Affordable housing” provides? Actually no. There, the years that I do pretty well, it more or less doubles the cost of housing. I notice that people who are planning to buy a home or start a business always live in a building like mine, with no subsidies, paying full freight on local property taxes. And most of us work seven days a week, at multiple jobs, and are very glad for services in caring for the building, dealing with the authorities, all that. The competition for these “non-affordable” apartments is fierce. I keep looking around for failing cities with apartments to spare, but inevitably the city is trying to turn them into “affordable” units. They get money upfront, but then lose the yearly tax base. I asked if it wasn’t true that all the criminals have to settle in the non-affordable units, because to live where there’s a subsidy you have to have a clean record. The tone of voice makes it plenty clear that people get around that. Anyway, some allergies probably do drive people to homeownership. Peanuts might be one. You can’t tell people two floors down that peanuts in any form are verboten. But most allergies, if the air is good enough for a normal person, it’s good enough for you. They say people with depressed immune systems are the canaries in the mine; pay attention if we are having trouble. If the air is fine, our allergies can all be treated and then vanish.
    “Affordable” is not the word. In the past few decades developers have been building cash cows for apartment buildings, and this is easy to spot. If the developers are touting the scenic porch and the jacuzzi and the slate counters, they are not trying to be respectful of the tenants’ ability to save for retirement or pay off student loans or start a business, deal with steep medical bills. All that.
    If they are asking for 25% of your income (“affordable” units), then consider that if you spent 25% percent of your income on an actual house, you would end up with an actual house, which you could sell, and get back quite a bit of money. If you pay 25% in rent, that 25% is gone, unrecoverable, not part of an investment at all. I guess you’d say affordable housing, in financial terms, is a pig-in-a-poke, part of the diversionary tactics of the housing market. It’s good for the developers as a tax break, but it is terrible for plenty people who could otherwise flourish a lot better in rental housing.
    The answer is to pick up in developing regular apartment units the way we did before “affordable” housing. Let the builders build what those students on their parents’ couches can actually afford, what people like me would actually pay. And put up enough of it so that if the people downstairs are poisoning my air, it is no big deal for me to move down the street where the landlord knows there is no smoke. Or no big deal if I get those people evicted for them to find a new place for themselves. The beauty of rental housing is you can pick right up and move. But this doesn’t work if all the rental units have changed into condos.

  • david

    I just had a call last night involving drugs. A guy gets a tap on the door he looks out his window and three shots come through the glass. The guy is struck in the face. He will survive. I have seen this for decades happening in my area. This happened on what we call Crack Road. We talk about the “rule of law”, that is a joke here in America. Mexico is a prime example. America has no back bone or desire to solve the drug problem. Foolish people suggest legalization. That will really solve only one problem, all the legal pot that a pot head can smoke. After that high wears off, they will push to legalize crack.
    A pot head will still need money to buy the stuff. Most around here steal to get the money to buy. So, will legalizing the stuff solve the money issue, or maybe they can get a government handout?
    What you see in Mexico is being played out here in America already.
    What kind of society do we want??

  • http://www.homegrowngreens.com Clifton Middleton

    The same old knucklehead crap about rule of law. You can not have rule of law when the People DO NOT CONSENT to these irrational and capricious marijuana laws. The marijuana laws have created the an armed conflict with the people. The drug lords would shrink to almost nothing without the marijuana money. The only people against marijuana are being paid to speak. When is your lame station going to have on someone that knows the history and benefits of hemp. As usual you have on the same old know nothings with no practical solutions for anything. Try an alternative view. Industrial hemp can replace foriegn oil for fuel and provide thousands of jobs. The Tea Party is for Free Market Hemp, educate yourselves and stop bringing on these old propagandist for the police state.

  • Ed

    PROHIBITION is the cause of all of these problems in both the US and Mexico. Prohibition causes corruption, violence, death, cartels and destroys the foundation of freedom on which this country was formed. Wake up America and Mexico. Learn the truth, stand up, speak out and Just Say No to Prohibition.

    I will not give to public radio as they never give voice to ending prohibition. Just more lies and propaganda from big, fiscally reckless and corrupt government.

    Shame on you NPR.

  • Beatrice Galinat

    Here’s a way to greatly reduce the drug problem in the usa and mexico. Just drug test everyone as a condition of employment. I am a flight attendant and I have to submit to random drug tests as a condition of my employment. why not everybody else?. If we are serious about fixing this mess, that is the way.

  • http://www.korenreyes.com Koren Reyes

    Hi Tom,
    I just returned from Mexico City TODAY. I was there for four days for a same-sex wedding in the city.

    My American friend (half of the union) has lived in Mexico City for more than ten years. Even he will not take the maroon and gold cabs at night and he speaks the language and knows his way around. Curiously, same-sex marriages are ONLY recognized in Mexico City and not the rest of the country.

    I never felt safe. In fact, after my flight was cancelled due to a mechanical problem, I joked with the Delta rep who was issuing a hotel vouture for me that the pilots probably wouldn’t stay at the hotel where he was putting me up for the night. He corrected me and told me why.

    He said an entire Delta busload of crew got held up on route to center city at gunpoint and were robbed of every imaginable valuable.

    That’s why the crew stay close to the airport now.

    In all my international travels, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be home.

  • click (here) to delete

    Mexico is a failed state.

    Oh, by the way…there is no one young enough on this forum who will see the legalization of pot. Smoking anything is hazardous to your health and between the nanny state and the American Cancer Society you clandestine heads don’t have a chance.

  • David Holzman

    I agree with those people who criticized you for waiting until the last 10 seconds to ask about legalization. McCaffery’s answer was predictably insubstantive, and you gave yourself no time to follow up.

    I also think that McCaffery’s comment about Mexican gangs being in 200 US cities (if I heard that right–I was in traffic) begged follow up questions such as what is the role of the US’ de facto encouragement of illegal immigration in enabling these gangs to get into the country and establish themselves

  • Sandy

    First of all, what a relief to read an intelligent debate on the topic. From an American paid to be in the middle of it right now protecting American interests I can give you the cold hard facts from the ground-up close.
    1. As stated our demand is the sole cause of this. Extortion and Kidnappng is the result of the weak and stupid cartels not being able to muscle in (Zetas) and needing to fund themselves.
    2. Additionally we launder the money – it is a fact
    3. 95% of the assault weapons used in this war were bought from US sources.
    Current day Mexico is a vision of our future if we cannot get control of the issue. The only answer is legalization to wash the blood from our hands. With the money gone we will give the mexican army a chance = cartels cannot buy the police with the little bit of money they make on kidnapping. With the drug money out, the government takes back the police and the politicians and the cartel will be forced into petty crime which sounds a lot like my home city of Houston.
    Thanks for giving me hope that there are still right thinking Americans back home, I was beginning to wonder…..

  • William Logan

    I was wondering if the legalization of marijuana might have something to do with some of the problems? I know as a user that the market has been gaining quality and is easier to find. The lower grade marijuana that traditionally comes from mexico is increasingly harder to find. This tells me that people are abusing the system by buying it and selling it on the black market. It also tells me that the import of it is down. The cartels could be fighting over a decreasing market among other things.

  • http://Yahoo Luis

    To Everyone
    Every country suffers from similar problems; poverty, corruption, crime, and etc. The extreme problems from mexico have been growing over the years since its independence. To understand the root of the problem one must go back years. Ever since mexico became independant, foriegn countries have come in and invested thier money in mexico and sell thier goods taking up the market ex.USA, Europe. Causing low wages, investments in stupid projects to make the rich look good. The creation of NAFTA and others like it. Think about it mexico has almost no auto companies of its own. Many countries get their drugs from there. The US black market supplies the guerilla and cartels weapons. Anyone wanting to change ends up with the wrong people. Its easy to judge this country for many, especially US americans but the reality is that other countries like USA have a large role in this complex problem. What mexico needs is to change its policy and give its people a chance to grow economically. To stop getting bullied by other countries to set better tarriffs on other countries. To help grow more business’s such as a mexican automaker. Too many of its brightest minds go elsewhere because of the lack of support. There is no federal financial aid for its student, the scholarships are little. Public education lacks extremefunding. Do you see now why it easy to convince immigrants, kids, citizens and police forces to join cartels.What mexico needs is a leader with balls and smarts. Calderon only attacks the problem on two fronts: Crime and Violence. I am hopeful and wish that mexico hangs on a bit longer for a new president. A president that will see all sides of the ball. A president and congress that will set aside its own interest and help its dying people. We must remember that most if the world dumps its sins and crap on countries like mexico. Check out the documentary by Alfonso Cuaron Shock Doctrine!

  • http://billbruehl.homestead.com/HomePage.html Bill

    I wanted so much to call in. Couldn’t stop driving. AND I’m so glad to read that other listeners want us to stop prohibition. Our people confuse prohibition with control.
    We control dangerous weapons, dangerous medications, dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco. We learned prohibition does not work but we continue to preach that its the only way to deal with the criminals. And that is so wrong! NPR could lead the way. How about focusing one program on the issue of control vs prohibition? I could go on and list all the benefits of control and how it would end so much criminal violence, but why don’t you do it?

  • James McIntyre

    Yeah like stopping Americans from using drugs is feasible. I believe it may be much easier to arrest and/or kill those militants in Mexico than it would be to get junkies off the heroin and marijuana.

    Don’t blame America and Europe for Mexico’s problems. They are people that make their own damn decisions. To say it’s our fault is to liken the Mexican people to children or animals. If you think they’re children then teach them. If you think they’re animals then build that f**king wall.

  • Hillbilly

    i was glad to read some comments in favor of lifting prohibition against cannabis. organized crime lives on the black market, as al capone lived on alcohol prohibition. on point is one of my most favorite radio shows but i was dumbfounded by tom handing mcafferty the last word on the show on the subject of prohibition. aye! aye! aye! just awful! please bring on some sane voices for lifting prohibition! people like mcafferty must be moved out of the way for sane politics to proceed. alcohol causes more social harm than all other drugs combined. any country that cannot come up with an argument against alcohol has nothing to say about cannabis.

  • http://yahoo luis

    @james.. Im not blaming anybody. What Im saying is that to solve this problem or minimize because no country can solve them completely, mexico must develop more on itself then letting foreign businesses do what they want there.The US and bigger countries could do this to any country that allows it. And also that the border will never be safe because there is also a lot of corruption here in the US. USA is not a little angel, we should have learned that already we idealize that our country is so fair. That is why we don’t hear much about it because it is on the DL. Also that legalizing the drug alone is not enough there must be a series of reforms.

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